In Scotland, Scottish armigers are those individuals awarded personal arms by the Court of the Lord Lyon, and are an indication of nobility (either peerage or non-peerage in rank).[1] All Scottish armigers are ennobled in their grant or matriculation of arms awarded by the Crown or Sovereign through the Court of the Lord Lyon, and by issuance of a warrant from the Lord Lyon King of Arms are so entered in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland through official "Ensigns of Nobility".[2][3] Without such legal arms it is practically impossible to prove one's nobiliary status.[4] Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms, also states,

"Technically, a grant of arms from the Lord Lyon is a patent of nobility (also referred to as a 'Diploma of Nobility'); the Grantee is thereby 'enrolled with all nobles in the noblesse of Scotland."


In 2018 the Lord Lyon quietly dropped the so-called nobility clause from newly issued Letters Patent.[6]

According to the 2nd edition of Scots Heraldry at p. 198, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon writes:

“The name in which a person is granted arms is, however, a ‘name of dignity’ (i.e., of the dignity of Gentleman) and in the nature of a 'title' if it comprehends a feudal designation.”

As such, a Scottish armiger is recognized under Scottish heraldic law as within the non-peerage rank of Gentleman, which is so recognized under Scots law as a social dignity. Given this court decision, the term "nobility" should be avoided, as it has long been confined in Britain to the peerage, or someone of official social rank (Dukes, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, etc.). Instead, it is more appropriate to use the term 'Noblesse' in the context of the French definition, which includes the non-peerage rank of Gentlemen. A Gentleman is the lowest rank of gentry, standing below an esquire and above a yeoman. It includes the untitled and minor nobility - the lower tier of the noblesse, to whom rightly belong Lairds (those with territorial designations), Esquires and Gentlemen, "known" through the grant or matriculation of armorial bearings.

The dignity of Esquire (post-nominal Esq.) is an official title in Scotland, unlike other parts of the world. For example, attorneys in the United States use "Esquire" as a courtesy title, and it is used by both men and women. In Scotland, the title is exclusively used by men, never women. Scottish armigers who are not peers, feudal barons, or lairds with territorial designations are addressed in correspondence as a post nominal Esq. by the Court of the Lord Lyon.

If associated with a particular Scottish clan, armigers are the uasail, or gentry, of their clan, with a duty and responsibility for the management of the clan in our time; and thereby bound to the principles of noblesse oblige. The upper tier of the Noblesse, the Peerage of Scotland, has a number of elements that make it distinct from the lower one. Nevertheless, according to Innes of Learney, it too is bound to the same principles.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Edmondson, Complete Body of Heraldry, p. 154
  2. ^ Nisbet's Heraldry, iii, ii, 65
  3. ^ Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry, p. 20
  4. ^ Cf: Innes of Learney, Sir Thomas (Lord Lyon King of Arms): Scots Heraldry, 2nd ed. [1956] p. 20f; 3rd ed. [1978] p. 13
  5. ^ Burnett, Charles J and Dennis, Mark D. Scotland's Heraldic Heritage; The Lion Rejoicing The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1997
  6. ^ "As he giveth, so shall he take away". The Cheshire Heraldry Web Journal (Blog). 2008-07-18. Archived from the original on 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2021-09-02.